Steamworks and the battle for Cascadia

Steamworks has started sending cease and desist letters to breweries using the word "Cascadia" in their titles. Photo by Sam Reynolds.
Steamworks has started sending cease and desist letters to breweries using the word “Cascadia” in their titles. Photo: Sam Reynolds.

Two high-profile Vancouver breweries may become locked in a legal battle over the use of the word “Cascadia” in their brews.

According to the popular beer blog Barley Mowat, Steamworks has recently started sending cease and desist letters to breweries that use word Cascadia in their product names — including Granville Island Brewing.

In a release, Steamworks stated that most breweries that received the cease and desist letters have apparently signaled their intention to comply with the letter, with the exception of Granville Island Brewing.

Steamworks explains its rationale for going after Granville Island in a statement.

“[Steamworks] has decided that protecting our trademark vs. Molson owned Granville Island Brewing is the best course of action so as to preserve the integrity of the name “‘Cascadia,’” the brewery said in its letter.

“Our plan is to license the trademark to other true B.C. craft breweries for a very nominal fee ($1 perhaps) which is legally needed to protect the trademark for all.”

The trouble with names

Steamworks first registered the trademark Cascadia for its cream ale shortly after opening its doors in 1995.

The brewpub applied for a trademark on the name in 1999, but its application was opposed by Granville Island, now owned by Molson, but then owned by parent company Cascadia Brands.

At the time, Granville Island did not have a product using the word “Cascadia.”

Granville Island withdrew its opposition to the trademark filing in 2006. Shortly thereafter the trademark was registered with Steamworks.

As of 2012, the Steamworks cream ale is no longer being brewed.

Standing up for copyright

In June 2012 Granville Island released a dark ale called the “Cascadian Dark Ale”, which it describes as a “dark India Pale Ale” — a stark contrast from Steamworks’ lighter cream ale.

Steamworks owner Eli Gershkovitch said, in his opinion, this case was “black letter trademark law”.

“Geographical locations can be trademarked: think Molson Canadian or Granville Island,” Gershkovitch said.

Granville Island Brewing maintains that they are not violating any sort of trademark. The company also says that to date they have not received a cease and desist letter from Steamworks or Gershkovitch.

Reported by Sam Reynolds

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